Our solar system’s family of five dwarf planets just got bigger

P. Vernazza and. Al/Nature Astronomy

  • Astronomers have concluded that asteroid Hygiea is likely a dwarf planet after all.
  • Images of Hygiea showed that the dwarf planet is round, an essential requirement for becoming a dwarf planet.
  • At around 267 miles in diameter, it will become the smallest of the five dwarf planets in the solar system.

    Hygiea was initially thought to be a large asteroid, but a new analysis of observations made by Chile’s Very Large Telescope has revealed a glimpse of the celestial body. It has finally fulfilled all the necessary conditions to become a dwarf planet.

    Dwarf planets have four key requirements:

    1. They must orbit around the sun.
    2. They should be round.
    3. They cannot be a moon.
    4. Their orbital paths cannot be free of debris, like those of the planets in our solar system.

      The new images revealed that Hygiea is actually a round ball of rock, a team of researchers led by astronomer Pierre Vernazza of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France reported on October 28. natural astronomy. Now, its status as a dwarf planet is official.

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      At 267 miles in diameter, Hygiea is said to be the smallest dwarf planet to orbit the sun. The researchers saw – or rather, didn’t see – something else that surprised them. A large group of asteroids follows Hygiea along its orbit. Vernazza and his team expected to find a giant impact crater on Hygiea’s body, which would indicate a two-million-year-old collision that formed all of these rocky companions. But the giant gash wasn’t there. Instead, they now believe that after the crash, all the pieces of rocky rubble came together to form Hygiea’s body.

      There are currently five dwarf planets in the solar system. Eris, Makemake, Haumea, Pluto and Ceres. The largest object in the asteroid belt and the smallest of the dwarf planets, Ceres, was discovered in 1801. Pluto, which is smaller than our moon, was downgraded from planetary status in 2006. Pluto superfans launched several efforts to restore the dwarf planet to its once-celebrated status – none have succeeded.

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      Arline J. Mercier